Hendersonville NC Chef Talks Career, Food and Long-Term Success
As a NicLive PR client and a fellow girlboss, Chef Jesse Roque of Never Blue Restaurant in Hendersonville NC is a shining example to female chefs, and other girlbosses, that you can juggle motherhood and a successful career. Roque was working front of house as a server in a restaurant in Southern Florida when she inquired about moving to a position in the kitchen. She was told that women didn’t have a place in the kitchen, and even if she did want to be a chef, she’d have to go to culinary school. She immediately enrolled in Johnson and Wales University and packed up her Toyota bound for Charleston, South Carolina.
After culinary school, Roque landed back in the kitchen of the a-hole who told her that women shouldn’t be chefs. She worked hard and, after moving from Sous Chef to Executive Chef, she fired him. (Go #girlboss!)
She traveled around the country honing her craft, then took the Executive Pastry Chef position at Charleston Grill at the four-star Charleston Place Hotel.
Nine years ago, she visited her mom in Hendersonville NC and never left. Jesse, her mother, and her husband, Edson, opened Never Blue eight years ago.
Their restaurant serves up a fusion of globally inspired cuisine, quirky cocktails, and powerful, impeccably flavorful dishes. Jesse and her restaurant are finally getting the regional recognition it deserves. Chef Jesse along with the eclectic menu at Never Blue were recently featured in Restaurant Hospitality.
Q & A with Chef Jesse Roque
I recently asked Jesse a few questions about her career and life as a hard working mom.
As a kid, what was your favorite food or dish and who made it for you?
Cheese Cracker Chicken. My grandma and my mom both made it, and it’s so simple and good that we make it for our Thanksgiving Day buffet and people go crazy for it. It tastes like home.
What was your first restaurant job?
Arby’s when I was 15.
As a female, was the path to becoming a chef tougher on you?
Absolutely! Although the industry has come a long way, it is still a male dominated industry. In the 90’s there were very few female chefs. I changed my name from Jessica to Jesse (the masculine spelling) just to get called to stage.
What date did you open your first restaurant and where was it?
February 2008. Never Blue Hendersonville NC is the first restaurant I ever opened.
What was the most popular item on your first menu?
The beef tenderloin quesadilla. Though the cheeses have changed slightly it is still on the menu.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a restaurant owner?
Trying to do everything myself.
What has been your proudest moment in your career so far?
Creating a successful restaurant and my two sweet girls.
What’s your favorite thing on your new menu?
The jerk game hen. It’s the perfect mix of spicy, sweet, and savory.
What’s it like working with your husband, Edson?
It’s awesome! We have such a great working relationship. We are both blessed with the ability to turn work off the minute we leave the restaurant. He’s a great dad and partner. The restaurant would not have been successful without him.
What has your restaurant taught you?
To have a thicker skin. And that delegation is the key to success.
Where do you want to be in 10 years?
Either living off-grid and farming or traveling with my family discovering new foods.
What are you most thankful for?
My family and all the amazing people that make my restaurant a success.
Never Blue Restaurant is located at 119 S. Main Street, Hendersonville NC. For hours and menu items, visit www.theneverblue.com. For reservations call (828) 693-4646.